Lifeguards hold important post
It’s just another day at the beach for Tahoe lifeguards.
While many may envy those who bask in the Sierra sun holding vigil over lake swimmers, Lakeside Beach lifeguard Tim Rice said Tahoe’s waters can be hazardous for careless swimmers. High-altitude conditions and cold water keep Rice and the Lakeside’s other three lifeguards on careful watch.
Rice said rescues are noticeably down this year from Lakeside’s annual average of about 30. In a normal summer the lake’s temperature usually stays around 60 degrees. Rice said the temperatures have been 5 to 10 degrees warmer this year. He credits the decline in rescues to the warmer temperatures and lower water level.
“It is so shallow and warm that people aren’t freaking out like last year,” Rice said. “We just consider ourselves preventative. Last year we had like 35 rescues. We have gone in a few times but it was just assistance-type situations.”
Guard Lisa Welliver said there have been a lot of windy days on the lake this summer, making their job difficult at times.
“The wind has been our biggest factor,” Welliver said. “It has just been really super windy. I try to stay off the tower if it is too windy. One day the tower blew down.”
Rice, who has been working at Lakeside Beach since 1994, recalled a day in 1999 when it was so windy that the Tahoe Princess which docks adjacent to the beach, blew inside Lakeside’s breakwall.
“One time the Tahoe Princess came through the swimming area,” Rice said. “It was a super high windy day and they were trying to park it and they got caught in the ropes and floated on through.”
Before moving to Tahoe, Rice was a Volusia County lifeguard for six years in Daytona Beach, Fla. He said lifeguarding at Lake Tahoe is not as rigorous as the at the ocean but the swimmers on the lake face unique hazards.
“It is definitely not like working the ocean,” Rice said. “The majority of problems are hypothermia and cramping after swimming out too far.”
Rice said he and the other guards stress public relations with beach patrons. He said communication is a major factor in educating visitors about how to respect the lake and its wildlife.
“Public relations is a big part of our job,” Rice said. “Just to get to know the clientele and let them know what they can do and what they can’t. It is a tactful way to tell people about the environment. Not to feed the geese, you know, Oreos, corn puffs.”
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